Several years ago, watercolorist Marina Brown was writer-in-residence at the Tallahassee International Airport. From the wee hours of the morning until midnight she roamed the terminals, speaking with travelers and jotting down their stories. She came to view the airport as a magical state of in-between, neither here nor there, where a traveler becomes their most authentic self.
She wishes for her watercolor paintings to occupy that same headspace during her solo Artport Gallery exhibition, “Dance With Me,” — touching viewers in that middle place where they are most open and receptive. Now through Sept. 10, travelers and gallery goers will be met with sizzling flamenco dancers wielding fans, a Spanish dancer in decoupage, hip-hop b-boys, a midnight soiree of men and women dancing and playing their horns on a bridge, and many others who hope to whisk them off their feet.
“The same stories that are in the paintings or that you interpret when you’re dancing are there to be told about human life,” says Brown. “It’s all part of this river with little streams that flow off one another.”
Movement is embedded in Brown’s inventive spirit. She toured as a soloist for renowned ballet company, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, joining their ranks at the age of 15. In high school she had been awarded a scholarship for art, but instead chose the path of professional ballerina after falling head over heels at first sight of pink, satin pointe shoes. However, Brown quickly took to writing poetry and sketching on the road as the bus whizzed through cities like Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City.
“Art was always there, and a lovely place to go,” reflects Brown. “Whether it’s drawing on a Styrofoam box when you’re waiting for the check to come or a napkin. Sometimes before I fall asleep at night, faces or dancers flash across my mind. So they’re always there, and if I have a pencil or a brush they’ll find their way out.”
Brown paints nearly anywhere and any time. Her workroom is divided between watercolor and writing — Brown is an established writer for publications such as Dance Magazine, Tallahassee Magazine, and the Tallahassee Democrat as well as an award-winning author whose paintings have illustrated her book covers. When she needs to take a closer look at her work however, she’ll search the house for the best lighting, ending up in the bathroom or laundry room, or even propping a painting up underneath the stove hood.
She zeroes in to capture the soul of a piece and is inspired by images from other cultures. Many of her sketches focus on the lives of African Americans in particular. She also feels a mystery and magic surrounding historical sites like the Bradfordville Blues Club. Her style spans from “careful, articulated,” portraits to more abstracted bodies in motion, working from both photographs and memory.
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